From waste water to resourceful water: the science, technology and practice transformation

Technology focus

The SDGs as a new opportunity to turn the tide on water resources degradation

Turning the tide on water resources degradation and restoring water quality is no small task. Yet, improvements in water availability and quality will have a profound impact on the health and biodiversity of freshwater ecosystems, on the quality of life for billions of people and for the sustainable growth of economies around the world.

From waste water to resourceful water: the science, technology and practice transformation

Wastewater collection and treatment as we know it, is increasingly no longer fit for purpose. Major benefits can come from truly rethinking our waste water systems and turning them into systems that not only protect our health and environment, but also produce new resources such as clean water, renewable energy, and tailored fertilizers. The technologies to do so are increasingly available, affordable and applicable in cities and industries alike. Leading examples include: direct potable re-use, energy and carbon positive utilities, and fertilizer production from resourceful water. Most recent pilots and full-scale applications indicate that the future can and will be radically different.

During the first session, the keynote presentation will explore the current frontiers of leading science, technology and practice that are transforming large-scale urban waste water systems. Subsequent, case studies will show how direct potable re-use can be realized, how carbon and energy neutrality can be achieved and how fertilizer production and sales from waste water can be organized with examples from the United States, China, Belgium and the Netherlands.

During the second session, the focus shifts to decentralized systems in developing economies. New technologies and applications are emerging that re-use treated waste water in agriculture, produce local bio-energy and recaptured and use nutrients contained in bio-solids. Examples will be presented from India, South Africa and Haiti.

Potential impact on SDGs

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SDG 6 calls to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Water is at the very core of sustainable development, and of utmost importance to a healthy living (SDG 3) and for agriculture, as well as to industrial and energy production. SDG 6 not only addresses the issues relating to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, but also the quality and sustainability of water resources worldwide. Governments have committed to half the amount of untreated wastewater and to stop and reverse the decline of water quality and the destruction of freshwater ecosystems (SDG 14). Progress is indicated by e.g. the proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services, the proportion of wastewater safely treated, the change in water-use efficiency over time and the degree of integrated water resources management implementation.

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